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En Minor - When the Cold Truth Has Worn its Welcome Award winner

En Minor
When the Cold Truth Has Worn its Welcome
by Chris Hawkins at 07 October 2020, 6:24 PM

Each loss we experience in life leaves an indelibly potent, everlasting scar.  As the years go by, it often seems the only constant in life is loss.  I write these words in the wake of losing one of the most important heroes in all of music, Eddie Van Halen.  There really could not be a record to better reflect the grief swelling within since finding out about his passing yesterday.  EN MINOR is the new project from Phil Anselmo, Jimmy Bower, Kevin Bond, and others, a different shade of darkness, so to speak.  The songs collected here are written with a palpable convincing melancholy that can only be evoked from experience.  I’ve seen the term Depression Core thrown around, but really, this is just a somber, honest record, an exorcism of an abundance of demons.  No stranger to loss, Phil Anselmo has penned a collection of songs that each have a unique character while all following in step to the over-arching Acousti-Doom.  It is a highly personal record, one sure to impress those with an open mind.  The darkness permeating throughout is balanced by the occasional ray of light, though.  Ultimately, the record retains a distinct balance of grief, introspection, and powerful, musical catharsis as can only be penned by Phil Anselmo.

Mausoleums,” the first track effectively sets the tone for the album.  There is a majestic side to the music, a regality beyond mere quality.  Tone.  That is the secret to this alchemical formula and it is through the marriage of the intimate instrumentation, to include stately acoustics and tranquilizing cello that the stage is set for Anselmo to weave his own spell, one composed equally of a gravelly, world-weariness and tempered with the wisdom of a full life.  “Mausoleums” is the first taste of the smokey haze and bitter, numbing bite of aged whiskey that creates the setting of this very personal album.

The pace picks up with this next track aptly titled “Blue”.  There is a fever in the air with the pulse of percussion, witchy electric, and rhythmic acoustic, all entwined by the commanding sway of cello.  When Phil comes in, the band quiets to a soft rumble while he lends his rough baritone to narrate the story sounding quite a bit like a sedated Tom Waits.  Perhaps those reading this would never have expected to hear the foremost voice of Metal’s third decade and beyond crooning blackened dives into depression as such, but there is frankly, a deep debt owed to his unique brand of songwriting as well as other mainly non-Metal influences which show up later in the album.  The chorus offers a more familiar impression of his vocals as he employs that same drawl-inflected melancholia a la his later work with DOWN.  As much as the music is clearly from a deep place within his creative well, it is a fresh enough new twist on the established legacy created by Phil to garner attention from some who may not normally be into the extreme side of Metal while not alienating his core base.

As a longtime fan of PANTERA, SUPERJOINT RITUAL, and (especially) DOWN, this may seem like a huge departure, but it makes sense.  Music is truth.  This is especially true regarding the head-spinning voodoo conjured up from the NOLA scene.  The point is that anyone already plugged into that scene will naturally gravitate to this.  That integral honestly comes from the thick mixture of cultures enmeshed in that amazing city.  The album has the closest sonic resemblance to BODY AND BLOOD, a side project he started before DOWN, but EN MINOR is its own unique entity.  Its unique character owes to those years of abuse to his voice combined with what can be almost serene music at times such as the seventh track, “Melancholia”.  There is an intimate fragility evident in that hoarse drawl.  Certain moments have a haunting soundtrack-like quality to them made more affecting by the hypnotic cello.

The list of influences peaking through the shadows here is prodigious and essential.  At times, one can hear that murder-obsessed, forlorn rhapsody evoked by NICK CAVELEONARD COHEN is also gleaming through these songs alongside BOWIE, MARC BOLAN, and the spirit of freedom, expression, and artistry espoused by counter-culture icons as seemingly disparate yet oddly compatible as Aleister Crowley and JIM MORRISON.  While this is indeed a different shade of Phil, the influence of BLACK SABBATH is omnipresent.  That witchy, resin-coated, satanic swagger is completely ingrained in the man’s musical ethos.

This album succeeds in offering an alternative for Phil’s creative side, a feat aided abundantly by the intimate, hallucinogenic production.  Listening, one becomes transported to a candle-lit room thick with the fog of potent incense.  Phil’s many years in the business have culminated into this project, one whose story could only be told through myriad scars of life.  A wisened Phil now embraces his scars instead of denying their import.  The starkly dark gloom created here results from the culmination of many rough years and hard losses.  Music really is the best therapy.

Songwriting:  9
Originality:  9
Memorability: 9
Production:  9

4 Star Rating

1. Atomica
2. Born Loud
3. Chainbreaker
4. Get yer Feed
5. Lethal Desire
6. Methalina
7. Leatherized
8. Constant Graving
9. Hellbound
10. Postmortem Dreams
11. March of the Dead
12. The List
Phil Anselmo – Vocals
Kevin Bond – Guitars
Stephen Taylor – Guitars
Steve Bernal – Cello
Jimmy Bower – Percussion
Calvin Dover – Keys, Backing Vocals
Joiner Dover – Bass
Jose Gonzalez – Additional Percussion
Record Label: Season of Mist


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